A series of troubling reports have been coming out from the U.S. military asserting that decades of U.S. military supremacy has eroded in the face of a resurgent Russia and a booming China, but the US Navy has conceived of some new technologies that they say can restore the U.S. to its former glory.
“We face competitors who are challenging us in the open ocean, and we need to balance investment in those capabilities— advanced capabilities — in a way that we haven’t had to do for quite a while,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a statement.
As it is, Russia and China can effectively deny US forces access to militarily significant areas, like Eastern Europe and the South China Sea.
In response, the U.S. Navy ran a “rigorous program of analytics and wargaming,” and came up with a bold new strategy to turn the tables on these rising powers—distributed lethality.
Simply put, distributed lethality means giving every ship, from the smallest to the biggest, a range of advanced weapons that can destroy targets dependably, accurately, and without interference from enemy missile defense.
In the future, ships “will be equipped with the weapons and advanced capabilities that it will need to deter any aggressor and to make any aggressor who isn’t deterred very much regret their decision to take us on,” Carter said.
In the slides below, see the new munitions the US Navy wants to put aggressive authoritarian regimes in check.
The Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk missile.
The Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) missile has been around since the 70s, and has seen use in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but a new anti-ship version of the missile with a 1,000 nautical mile range could be deployed onboard Navy ships of all types within a decade.
In February of 2015, the USS Kidd fired a Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk variant that successfully hit a moving target at sea from long range, immediately drawing praise from top naval brass.
“This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work after the successful testing. “It can be used by practically by our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.
Length: 20 feet long
Weight: 3,000 pounds
Range: 1,000 nautical miles
Navy plans to acquire: 4,000 Tomahawks over five years for $2 billion
Watch the successful test of the newly improved Tomahawk missile. Keep in mind that to keep the cost of testing down, the missile was not meant to sink the ship.
“[Along with] our surface brothers and sisters, we got to get the long-range missile so we’re not held out by that A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) bubble and we have the stick to hit inside,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo, commander, Naval Submarine Forces said.
The SM-6 Dual I
USS Dewey test-fires the Navy’s first SM-6 missiles, March 31. 2011 | U.S. Navy
The SM-6 interceptor may be the first missile capable of intercepting both ballistic missiles, which fall from the sky, and cruise missiles, which fly along the surface of earth, sometimes even snaking through mountains.
In the past, these two distinct types of missiles, ballistic and cruise, have required different missiles to stop them, but the SM-6’s advanced signal processing and guidance control capabilities make it a useful defense against both types.
Length: 21 feet long
Weight: 3,300 pounds
Role in 2017 budget plan: $501 million to acquire 125 SM-6s
Watch the SM-6 intercept both a ballistic and a cruise missile.
“That allows the combatant commanders to have choice. Instead of having separate boutique missiles for each mission… they can put SM-6s,” Campisi continued.
AGM-158C LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile)
The LRASM is a precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile with a penetrator and blast fragmentation warhead. The Navy wants the LRASM to replace the harpoon, which has been in service since 1977, and is easily foiled by today’s modern defenses.
The LRASM on the other hand, is stealthy due to it’s angular shape, making it hard for enemies to detect. Also, in the case of electronic interference, the LRASM has advanced anti-jamming GPS guidance.
Additionally, the LRASM can be fired from ships and planes, like the F/A-18 pictured above.
Length: 14 feet
Weight: 2,100 pounds
Range: more than 200 miles
Speed: high subsonic
Navy plans to acquire: $30 million for the first 10 missiles
For an in depth rendering of how the LRASM works, watch the video from Lockheed Martin below.